It seems like I’ve only been reading apocalyptic fiction for the past two weeks. Not specifically either post- or pre-, but it definitely involved ends of worlds, either global or more localized. This is a lot for a guy who says he is not a fan of dystopias. Yet recently, my friend and I had a discussion about dystopian fiction, and he said that he would not read the book if the cover said ‘dystopian’, but would read it if it said ‘post-apocalyptic’. Maybe that’s how I pick my books too.
And here we go again with the apocalypse, this time with Ben H. Winters. The main idea is rather simple: an asteroid is going to crash into our planet in a few months and basically bring on the end of the world. The consequences of this crash, however, are far from simple, particularly if you are a police detective.
Detective Henry Palace is at the center of all three books. He is one of those good-guy characters that, despite being very much on the lawful good side, are not annoying and actually seem quite human and well-developed. An asteroid is going to destroy life as we know it in six months, so what’s the point of solving crimes? Most of the cases are suicides anyway. But no, Palace goes on, doggedly pursuing leads and looking for evidence.
Both mystery and sci-fi genres mix pretty well together in the series. The books also pack a solid emotional punch. Hank has a sister who seems to like getting herself in trouble. He has a dog he ‘inherited’ from a drug dealer. The dog is the most bad-ass bichon frisé you’ll see in fiction (note: this is also the only time you will see the words ‘bad-ass bichon frisé’ in the same sentence). There’s always a dim hope that maybe, just maybe, the astronomers were all wrong and this asteroid will just pass by. Or that maybe there is no asteroid. Or maybe the humanity will come up with some scheme to avoid it. Humanity does hope pretty well even as it falls apart.
I read The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble one after another, which in itself is quite strange for me, since I like to space my series out. Yet I finished all three in a handful of days, as if an asteroid was really about to collide with our planet, and I had only so much time. In my defense, these books do feel disturbingly real. In fact, they gave me an ongoing feeling of doom. After finishing the first one, I almost called my work and said ‘I can’t come in, the world is ending’. As a bookseller I should be allowed to take days off due to book trauma, right?
I will stop here and point you to the blog that started me on these books. Matt at Books, Brains and Beer has excellent reviews for both The Last Policeman (if you haven’t read the series yet), and of World of Trouble (if you have).